Additional Topics

  1. As you may have heard, the OEA and Innovation Ohio have launched a website (KnowYourCharter.com) to ostensibly provide comparison information between charter schools and Ohio’s districts. There’s tons wrong with this picture, of course, but suffice it to say that it’s akin to the Confederation of Wolves launching a website called KnowYourHenHouse.com, to let you know how secure chicken coops are around the state. It definitely isn’t for the purpose of making the coops more secure. But seriously folks, the Dispatch coverage quotes our own Chad Aldis talking about the apples-to-bowling-balls comparison to be had. (Columbus Dispatch). Gongwer’s coverage has other voices raising the same concerns. (Gongwer Ohio) Most other coverage around Ohio is limited to this same piece with only token information and token response. (Willoughby News Herald)
     
  2. Back in the real world, CEO Eric Gordon gave his annual State of the Schools speech in Cleveland yesterday. Although playing heavily on the story of Sisyphus, he averred that the Cleveland Plan is starting to show signs of success. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. Still hanging in the real world, officials in the inner-ring Columbus suburb of Whitehall say that their schools are ready for PARCC, especially in the area of appropriate technology for the online version of the tests. How’d they get there so easily, despite the well-known challenges? By participating in last year’s test piloting. (ThisWeek News/Whitehall News)
     
  4. Sliding back into the realms of fantasy for a moment, check out this
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DIFFERENT MINDS THINK ALIKE
At a Colorado gubernatorial debate last night, Governor John Hickenlooper and Congressman Bob Beauprez discussed their views on education. The consensus: To improve the state's standing in national rankings, more federal funding is necessary. Good luck with that, fellas.

GOOD NEWS FOR LOW-INCOME UNDERGRADS
The University of Chicago will announce today a number of initiatives aimed at increasing the enrollment of low-income students. “This is all part of a strategy to create a common and equal platform for all students,” said the school’s dean.

TOOTHLESS STANDARDS
Mathew Chingos writes that although California has passed laws to remove ineffective teachers and end tenure abuse, this legislation will have a minimal impact, dismissing poor teachers at an annual rate of only 0.0008 percent. 

THINK DIFFERENT
While technology in the classroom opens the door for versatile lessons, some worry that automated programs rob children of the ability to solve complex problems on their own. ...

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I’m excited about a recent shift in the reform conversation. After years of focusing on Common Core, common assessments, and teacher evaluation, many of those interested in large-scale K–12 improvements are turning their attention back to state accountability systems.

The Obama administration’s ESEA waiver policy had the potential to spur imaginative state-level thinking. But thanks to a combination of NCLB’s legal strictures, the administration’s fixation on particular policy conditions, and state leaders who just wanted to get out from under AYP ASAP, the new state systems look a whole lot like the old ones. (In fairness, some states have smartly experimented with A–F systems and “super subgroups.”)

Despite this arrested development, I think two important events provide the outlines for a new approach to state-level accountability.

First, under the auspices of CRPE and TBFI, a group of experienced policymakers and thought leaders have penned an “Open Letter on Accountability To State Superintendents and Governors.” It explains and defends K–12 accountability, concedes problems with current systems, and offers eight smart principles for next-generation systems. The group doesn’t get into specifics; instead, it hopes to get people thinking about what’s possible (though within certain guidelines).

This is important because of the second event: Increasingly, people are arguing that a unitary statewide accountability system stymies innovation and fails to capture important elements of schooling that some communities prioritize.

Mike Petrilli has argued that about 10 percent of a state’s public schools should be allowed to “opt...

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ATLANTA’S SHAME
Yesterday saw opening statements in the criminal trial of a dozen Atlanta teachers and administrators who allegedly engaged in a “widespread, cleverly disguised” conspiracy to cheat on standardized test scores “to protect their jobs and win favor and bonuses from administrators,” the New York Times reports.

FORDHAM (AND CRPE) IN THE NEWS
Tom Vander Ark weighs in on the accountability reboot from Fordham-CRPE noting, “I love the idea of a 'good school promise' (best captured by #3) and think it should form the backbone of every states ed code. This list is a good start but doesn't adequately capture the opportunity of next generation learning.”

REFORM: A NEW CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT?
At The Hill, Basil A. Smikle Jr. examines the growing split between ed reformers and unions, with parents caught in the middle: “They also have agency, but there is a growing sense that their support is being appropriated for purposes that go beyond the classroom and their children.”

PATRIOTISM OR CENSORSHIP?
The protests in Jefferson County, Colorado against proposed changes to the history curriculum have engendered some great debates over the place of patriotism in the classroom. A longtime Colorado teacher shares his thoughts in The Denver Post.

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  1. Not much for the Gadfly to bite into today, so we’ll make the most of what we have. Starting with this very nice profile of Fordham-sponsored Village Prep :: Woodland Hills school in Cleveland. The story centers on the pervasive college-prep mentality in the school, down to the classroom doors all decorated with college logos/flags/mottos. "It's a literal and figurative door to college," says Head of School Chris O’Brien, and the students interviewed echo that mindset. Nice. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. There is very little mention above of the economic conditions of Village Prep students, but it is noted that many students come to the school behind in their learning and that the school works hard to bring their students up to grade level as quickly as possible. Editors in Columbus are thinking on similar lines as they opine on the quandary of raising the achievement levels of economically disadvantaged students when non-academic factors weigh so heavily against them. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. The website WalletHub has released a study ranking states based on the best opportunities for teachers. Among the 18 metrics used are median starting salary and teacher job openings per capita. Ohio ranked 8th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. This in itself is fascinating, but I would be remiss if I did not note that the Plain Dealer, from which I clipped this story, is the only major daily paper in Ohio whose website is still free and open to the
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DEMOCRACY REQUIRES PATRIOTISM
“In the long and deadly battle against those who hate Western ideals, and hate America in particular, we must be powerfully armed, morally as well as materially,” writes historian Donald Kagan in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKIN’ ABOUT
Former President Bill Clinton made waves with “stunning remarks” arguing charters that don’t outperform public schools should be closed. If “stunning” means saying the same thing charter advocates have been saying for twenty years, responds NACSA head Greg Richmond, “then yes, his remarks were stunning.”

“NOBODY WANTS TO BE ATLANTA”
The Wall Street Journal reports on “a burgeoning industry in detecting cheating on standardized exams.” School districts from Delaware to Idaho are hiring anti-cheating consultants, buying software to spot wrongdoers, and requiring testing companies to offer anti-cheating plans when seeking contracts. 

ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH
Literacy expert Tim Shanahan enters the fray on teaching with complex text, not just “leveled” text. “Teachers should pay attention to evidence—not opinion,” he writes. Read Fordham’s take by Mahnken and Pondiscio here.    

HISTORY LESSONS
In Philly, students are required to take a one-year course in African American history, but many find the course frustrating, says the New Republic. And teachers “sometimes fear that introducing current events and encouraging interpretation and debate will lead to...

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  1. Gongwer Ohio discussed Aaron's Poised for Progress report on Friday, looking at new report card data from the perspective of the distribution of high-quality seats in Ohio's urban areas. OAPCS's report card analysis is covered as well. Nice! (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. How did the Big D get wind of the fact that Columbus City Schools is losing high schoolers to other districts and schools? Football. 8 teams were downgraded to smaller leagues based on student population. No matter. This fact spurred an investigation to find that most other Franklin County districts are losing high schoolers as well. No one has any idea why or even where specifically kids are going. Conjecture from our education professionals include competition from those pesky charter schools and the ease of public transit (?!) making changing schools easier. If only there was a study about this sort of thing though…. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. According to StateImpact, among those high schoolers who do find the right fit and stick it out, four-year graduation rates are improving among Ohio’s Urban 8 districts. (StateImpact Ohio)
     
  4. This weekend’s talks between Reynoldsburg teachers and the district were unsuccessful and teachers are back on the picket line this morning. On the upside, sounds like Friday’s football game went off OK without any “spillover”…minus the loss to Pickerington Central that is. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  5. A number of districts in Stark County have tightened up their truancy policies this year – at least one of them citing
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  1. What could be worse than extended weeks of daily school transportation delays? Perhaps having your transportation up and functional for a couple of weeks, only to have it stopped with the explanation that you shouldn’t have had this bus service these last few weeks anyway. Oops. Our bad. For the love of Pete – please find another way to do this. (ThisWeek News/Bexley News)
     
  2. Cleveland’s Brent Larkin opines on the (lack of) substantive education discussion going on during the gubernatorial contest in Ohio. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. Speaking of the gubernatorial race, gubernatorial challenger Ed FitzGerald visited the picket line in Reynoldsburg yesterday. I will leave the question as to why a Clevelander visiting central Ohio was covered most fully in the Toledo paper up to others to answer. (Toledo Blade)
     
  4. Gubernatorial candidate FitzGerald only gets a brief passing mention in the Big D’s Reynoldsburg story today….probably because things have taken a turn for the bizarre there. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  5. Recall that there is a law on the books in Cleveland that parents must meet with their children’s teachers. There are no consequences, as you might imagine, but Year 1 numbers for parent visits were significantly higher than in previous years. It’s Year 2 now, and the fall parent meeting numbers are trending even higher than last year. Nice. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  6. We stay in Cleveland for our final Gadfly Bite today: The Sound of Ideas this week featured a formerly homeless
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DEPARTMENT OF GOOD NEWS:
Hispanic children, the fastest growing group of young people in the U.S., are seeing improvements on many academic measures, including increased math proficiency and lower dropout rates.

DEPARTMENT OF BAD NEWS:
The number of charter schools has nearly doubled over the past decade, but federal and state assistance for funding school facilities and renovations, a major obstacle for many charter schools, has declined.

COMMON CORE UNFOLDS IN LOUISIANA:
In spite of the legal furor surrounding the implementation of Common Core in the Pelican State, the standards have seen a mostly encouraging reception in the classroom, Will Sentell reports in the New Orleans Advocate.

YALE BEATS HARVARD, 20.2-15.4:
Yesterday we pointed you to a Wall Street Journal story highlighting Harvard’s somewhat lackluster 15.4 percent investment gains in fiscal 2014; today brings the news that archnemesis Yale posted a 20.2 percent return over the same period. Meanwhile, the Crimson's investment arm has brought on a new chief executive....

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  1. We noted busing woes in a few parts of the state at the beginning of the school year. Sadly, a shortage of drivers in the Cincinnati area is extending transportation woes for families in district, charter, and private schools far into the school year. Please can we think up a new way of doing this? (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  2. I’m tempted to comment on the use of the phrase “traditional charter school” here, but the story is just too good to mess up with snark. A charter school in the Toledo area is partnering with a center for children with autism to help transition students into a more typical classroom setting. Gregory, for one, seems to be doing very well so far. (WTVG-TV, Toledo)
     
  3. Pickerington Central High School’s band will not be performing at tomorrow night’s football game against Reynoldsburg. Apparently band parents were concerned about “spillover” from the ongoing teachers strike in Reynoldsburg and Pickerington pulled the plug on the performance. I don’t know what “spillover” is but the fact that every adult involved on all sides of this strike didn’t rush out to reassure, “Every visitor to our stadium will have a good time and be just fine, like always,” probably says all you need to know. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  4. Officials from North Olmsted and Bay Village schools are talking Common Core this week in their local paper; specifically, the current legislative assault against it. There’s a lot in here but this quote probably
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